This is probably one of the most common questions I hear nowadays: how do I get my shipments from China to Amazon FBA?

While shipping products from China to Amazon warehouses isn’t incredibly difficult, it’s also slightly more complex than asking your supplier to stick a UPS label on a product and send it to a single Amazon warehouse. In this post, I’ll discuss the different ways you can get your products to Amazon FBA distribution centers.

Further Reading: I Worked at an Amazon FBA Warehouse for a Week. Here’s What I Learned

Your Choices: Direct to FBA or with a 3PL/Middleman

Getting your products to Amazon FBA really boils down to two choices: you can either ship your items directly to Amazon FBA warehouses from China or you can first ship to yourself or a 3PL and then ship to Amazon FBA.

If you’re shipping directly from China, you will have to instruct your Chinese supplier to prepare your goods completely to FBA specifications. This normally isn’t a problem but can sometimes be challenging.

If you’re shipping via a U.S. based middleman (including if the middleman is yourself), you can have one consolidated shipment from China broken into smaller packages, quality inspected and prepped for FBA. Using a middleman will cost more money though.

The Pros/Cons of Shipping Direct to Amazon FBA (and the Challenges)

Direct to FBA Using Middleman
Pros
  • Cheaper
  • Quicker
  • Can inspect the order domestically before it arrives at Amazon
  • Can use partnered carriers
  • Dividing shipments to multiple Amazon FCs is easy
Cons
  • Can’t inspect order domestically before it gets to Amazon
  • Can’t use partnered carriers
  • Shipments to multiple Amazon FCs is challenging
  • Supplier knows you’re selling on Amazon
  • More expensive
  • Slower

The biggest advantage of shipping from China to Amazon directly is that it is much quicker and cheaper. You will normally save 1-2 weeks in transit time if shipping direct from China. You will also eliminate 3PL costs which are hundreds or thousands of dollars per shipment, depending on the size.

The biggest headache about shipping to Amazon directly is that, depending on your product type, there is a very good chance that Amazon will request your items to be shipped to multiple FCs (Fulfillment Centers). This is especially true for oversize items.

multiple amazon shipments

An example of a shipment being divided between multiple FCs.

You can determine if Amazon will want you to ship to multiple FCs by creating a shipment within Amazon (do not approve the shipment).

Why Multiple FCs and How to Avoid it?

Amazon typically requires you to ship to multiple FCs for oversize items and/or if you mix a shipment with items requiring prep/not requiring prep.

How do you avoid shipping to multiple FCs?

  • Avoid combining oversize and standard size items
  • Avoid combining shipments that need prep and don’t need prep
  • Turn inventory placement on

If you’re shipping oversize items, unfortunately, you are going to likely be stuck shipping to multiple FCs and it’s  hard to ship direct to Amazon without turning on inventory placement.

To turn on Inventory Placement, go to to Settings -> Fulfillment by Amazon. This will make all of your items go to one distribution center.

inventory-placement

Inventory Placement can be pricey: For non-oversize items, it’s $0.40 per item + $0.10 per pound over 2 lbs. For oversized items, it is $1.30 per item + $0.20 per pound over 5 lbs. You can only turn on Inventory Placement for some shipments: just turn on Inventory Placement, create the shipment, and then turn it off. Only those items will be charged the above fees.

There are also a few blackhat workarounds that we do not encourage as they can very likely get you in trouble with Amazon:

  • Ignore the additional FCs and just ship to one
  • Send in a dummy oversize item in a standard size box and have it measured by Amazon. Amazon will think your items are standard size until they re-measure your items. Make sure to recall your dummy item before you sell it.
  • Use software like SellerChain.com which can sometimes use a backdoor to get shipments to one FC

The other danger in sending items directly to Amazon is that you will have no opportunity to inspect them domestically prior to them arriving at Amazon. If sending direct to Amazon from China I highly recommend using a third party inspection company in China such as with QIMA (formally AsiaInspection). At a very minimum, ask for detailed pictures from your supplier of all packaging and products before shipment. 

The other major issue is that by asking your supplier to apply FBA labels to all of your items they now know that you’re an Amazon seller. There’s a possibility that your supplier may think “Oh, maybe I should just sell directly to Amazon FBA”. And a lot of Chinese suppliers are now starting to do this.

Three Easy Steps to Ship Direct to Amazon from China

Below will outline how to ship direct to China using sea or air shipping. If you’d like to ship full containers to Amazon you can see our full article on how to ship full containers direct from China to Amazon FBA.

  1. Create your shipment in Seller Central. Ensure you are shipping only to one FC if shipping via sea freight. Use a southern California Ship From address such as the address below. This increases the likelihood of you being able to ship to a California FC, which is the most efficient distance wise from China (Amazon does not care what address you put here as you cannot use partnered carriers).
    amazon ship from address
  2. Have your supplier apply barcodes to each individual item, carton labels to each master carton, and pallet labels to the four sides of each pallet (if shipping pallets). A pallet will look like below.

    If exporting pallets from China you must ensure the pallets are ISPM-15. They may charge you more for this.
  3. Arrange with your freight forwarder for door-to-door service from China to the address of the designated Amazon warehouse .Ensure your freight forwarder has shipped to Amazon before and is comfortable with their carrier appointment requirements (most are).

China logistics to fba

There are also a number of services popping up within China that consolidate your shipments and ship direct to Amazon FBA. Two popular ones are mclhk.net and antlogistics.com.cn. These services will quote you an all-in-one rate (including sea freight, overland freight, customs clearance) per CBM. The rates are very good but there can be significant language issues.

All Duties and Freight Must be Prepaid

Amazon won’t pay a penny to accept your products so they must be shipped Delivery Duty Paid (DDP).

If you’re shipping via sea, this isn’t an issue as you will most likely need a customs broker to clear your shipment. However, if shipping via air courier (i.e. UPS/FedEx/etc.) by default duties and other charges will be billed to the receiver. If shipping air courier you must specify for the charges to be billed to the sender (DDP).

If you’re shipment is below $800 cost then it will fall below the $800 de minimis threshold and no duties should be owing.

The Pros/Cons of Shipping to a Middle Man First (and the Challenges)

You can simply have your shipments from China shipped directly to yourself or you can use a 3rd Party Logistics company (3PL). A 3PL will receive your shipment from China and either warehouse it or ship it to Amazon from you. Along with the other advantages of shipping this way is that you can now use Amazon Partnered Carriers for either small parcel shipments or LTL and it is very cheap.

3PL example

A picture of my previous 3PL – relatively small and unsophisticated.

Using a 3PL in between is, in fact, advantageous in almost every way except time and money. These are very important factors though.

A 3PL is likely going to spend 2-5 days receiving your stock and preparing it. It will also take a few more days in transit time from your 3PL to designated Amazon FC.  So more or less, using a middleman will add at least 1-2 weeks in lead time to get to Amazon FBA.

Most 3PLs are going to charge you a receiving fee (normally around $1-$5 per carton or $10-$50 per pallet), a pick/pack fee to actually ship the products (not including carrier fees of course) to Amazon FBA (normally around $1-$4) any labeling fees like barcodes (normally around $0.1-$0.25), and finally storage fees. Below is an example pricelist from a 3PL.

Sample Prep n’ Ship Schedule of Fees

When to Ship Direct and When to Use a Middle Man

So when should you ship direct to Amazon and when should you use a 3PL?

When to use a middleman when shipping to Amazon FBA:

  1. It’s your first shipment from a supplier, this way you can inspect it and also have an American based company prep/label it.
  2. It’s your first time using FBA, this way you avoid making any errors resulting in your shipment being rejected and sent back to China.
  3. It’s financially cheaper to use a middleman specifically due to the savings in having one consolidated shipment sent from China.

When to Ship Directly from China to FBA:

  1. You’re shipping a small physical amount of products (1 carton) and it is valued under $800.
  2. Time is absolutely critical for you and every day counts.
  3. You have lengthy experience with your supplier (and/or you’ve used a third party inspection agency in China) and you have lengthy experience shipping products to Amazon FBA and it’s cheaper than using a middleman.

In my opinion, if you’re relatively new to the whole importing game or Amazon FBA game, you should have your first couple of shipments sent directly to your home or business if at all possible. You should handle your products personally at some point.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has addressed the pros and cons of shipping directly from China to Amazon FBA as well as using a middleman.

How do you ship your products to Amazon FBA warehouses? What has been your experience shipping directly from China? Has everything gone smoothly or have you run into a few hiccups along the way. I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.

 

 

Dave Bryant has been importing from China for over 10 years and has started numerous product brands. He sold his multi-million dollar ecommerce business in 2016 and create another 7-figure business within 18 months. He’s also a former Amazon warehouse employee of one week.